My first trip out of the United States (except for Canada — back in the days when that didn’t require a passport) was 10 years ago. So the renewal of my passport is coming up this summer.
Since we are working on summer travel plans that might include a foray into Canada, and since it is a lot harder to submit a new passport application than renew one, I have been working, slowly, on the process of filling out and submitting my passport renewal.
I started by going to the travel.state.gov website, and downloading the PDF form and trying to fill it out as a pdf on my computer. When I got frustrated with that, I went to the website and followed the link for form filler, and found out that was the way to go. So I filled out the form, and had everything ready, except needing to have my passport photo.
That is where it got interesting. I went to USPS.com and looked up post offices near me that helped with passport applications. They all said you had to call to make an appointment. Each one I called either couldn’t do it because of equipment issues, or they only did it like once every so many weeks at a special “faire”.
But the one USPS person suggested CVS, Walgreens, Sam’s Club — and with that I decided to visit Sam’s club. Photos within the hour. Turned out to be 10 minutes and $4.96 for the two.
Then it took finding a stapler at home we could use to fasten the photo on to the form.
It was noontime, so I decided to wait and go later to avoid the rush.
But even at 3:45 p.m. there was a line at the post office. I got in line, hoping to ask questions about how to ship. But then I saw their display with mailing envelopes. I picked up the envelope for Priority Mail Express, but could only find mailing labels that said Priority Mail, so I filled that out while waiting in line, slapped it on, and waited some more.
When I got up to the desk, the person, Beverly, was very friendly and helpful, but mentioned I had the wrong label. I told her I hadn’t seen any, and asked her to give me the right one, which I stepped out of line to fill out and then came back once I was done and she had finished with the next person.
That part of mailing it was easy, but when I went back out to the postage rack, there was indeed no Priority Mail Express mailing labels. I went back in to try and let them know they needed to fill the rack, but everyone was “busy”, so there was no one I could mention it to without being unduly rude.
So I found the process not too bad, post office staff helpful, but the post office business model quite lacking. No wonder their business is going elsewhere.
Now to see how swiftly and efficiently the passport renewal application itself is processed.